Superman: What Makes Him Super?
I’ve been a Superman fan as far back as I can remember. Literally one of my first memories I have is one of me getting a cake for my 3rd birthday that had the little figures of the Super Friends on top. I carried one with me everywhere I went until I lost it. I remember being pretty upset about losing too. Of course, the one I lost was Superman, my favorite Super Friend. So I’ve always been a fan. When I was younger I liked Superman because he was powerful, good, and colorful. But as you get older you start evaluate why you like a character. I know a lot of people who liked Supes as kids but not as adults. That’s natural, as some people just grow out of things and interests often change. But as I got older I had to reevaluate why I was a Superman fan and I took a deeper look into what was appealing to me. It wasn’t just his powers or his strength. Although I did once upon a time feel like Superman could beat anyone and overcome anything, that notion was abolished the more I read other characters and put my emotions to the side. That growth and expansion didn’t diminish my appreciation for Superman.
But it’s not about his power or who he can defeat in battle, that’s for the kids. As an adult I needed more or I’d have to accept that the character was just boring to me as he is many other people. I recognized that Superman works best, in my opinion, when he’s presented as a god trying to be human. Superman works well when ordinary people can be in awe of his ability while he’s simultaneously struggling with the consequences of potentially making the wrong choice. So Superman’s true strength comes in the proper balancing of power, restraint, and character. Here’s a guy who could rule the world or accidentally kill thousands with one mistake, but he is constantly trying live up to an example of something bigger and better. Superman isn’t human but he’s at his greatest when he is embracing humanity. But when that doesn’t work, or when it’s not executed well, fans lean on power and strength and that can be toxic.
Understand that anyone can like anything for any reason they want, and that’s ok. The hypothetical battle board fights can be fun and engaging but they also lend themselves to a lot of negativity. I myself occasion, have to stop myself from falling into that trap. It becomes about feats and fights and what truly makes a character special is lost underneath a sea of exaggeration and hyperbole. Superman becomes reduced to his feats and his character doesn’t matter. I have literally seen people dismiss stories because they didn’t support a fans belief about his power levels or they made him look weaker. Some fans will say a story sucks because a character’s power wasn’t demonstrated to its fullest capacity. Since when does that constitute a good story? Since when does his power define him? Since when does a hero’s story become his domination of other opponents and not about how deals with adversity? Such things can diminish his character and his appeal. Focusing on things such as power or trying to beat other comic fans over the head with his supposed superiority can turn off others and keep them from giving Superman comics a chance. This goes for ANY character, Hulk, Thor, Wonder Woman, Sentry, Silver Surfer, Shazam, Blue Marvel, or any other heavy hitter.
But because I’ve chosen to attach myself to positive the aspects of what makes Superman great and what makes him work, I often find myself in opposition to the fanboy and feats crowd. But the truth is that I understand that he’s still Superman without his powers. Because what makes him Super isn’t the S, his flight, bench pressing the earth, heat vision, or super speed.
So what makes him super to you?